[Cover photo credit to Che Hise-Gattone]
Seattle, Washington-based Alternative Rock band Sun Spots released their EP Loosey in October via Happy Families and have recently come off a tour with Hardcore band GAG. The outfit, featuring Kailey on bass and vocals, Andrew and Malcolm on guitars, and Jose on drums, is an accumulation of a wealth of experience in multiple genres, particularly Punk and Hardcore. This project, however, builds on a shared interest in Alternative Rock of the 80s and 90s and a need to channel some of those ideas while maintaining the appeal of Punk derived from live performance energy.
For Sun Spots, performance is pretty key, but that hasn’t stopped them from carefully shaping studio recordings with their latest EP. Likewise, lyrics receive careful consideration in a really balanced partnership with a guitar-forward approach. Mood and atmosphere are important on these songs, but certain key phrases and ideas hold up a lens to life experiences, particularly the ones that seem pressing in life right now, whether it’s alienation, uncertainty, or a search for self. I spoke with Malcolm from the band about what went into creating Sun Spots and also into selecting and releasing of the tracks on Loosey to build on their sound.
Hannah Means-Shannon: I know that the band is made up of members from other Punk bands. What made you feel like you wanted to do something new or different? How did those other experiences help you decide what you wanted to be?
Malcolm: When Sun Spots first started we all knew each other from playing in Punk and Hardcore bands, but we all have a lot of musical influences beyond that. We are all big fans of a lot of 80’s and 90’s alternative Rock like The Pixies, Hole, The Breeders, Dinosaur Jr, etc. and wanted to try playing music like that. The biggest thing that coming from the world of DIY Hardcore and Punk gave us is the energy and immediacy of the songwriting. A lot of Punk bands play music that is relatively simple and straightforward, but incredibly powerful because of the intensity of the performance. We try to bring that same ethos to our music, even if stylistically it sometimes seems very far from Punk.
HMS: Did you have other songs to pick from to create the EP and these four were the ones that you decided on? If so, what do you think made them the right choice?
Malcolm: We demo’d about eight to ten songs shortly before recording Loosey and chose the four that ended up on the EP from those songs. The songs that didn’t make it will end up on something eventually, but we just felt that the four we chose flowed really well together. We try to be deliberate in the recording process with making a release feel cohesive to avoid a final product that feels thrown together. Sometimes that means choosing songs that balance each other out, like a really loud and high energy song followed by something a little more chill, and sometimes it means actually blending the ending of one song into the beginning of another like we did with “Bonehead” and “Loosey” on the EP.
HMS: The role of guitars is clearly really important to your sound. Do you typically write guitar riffs first before thinking about things like choruses or lyrics?
Malcolm: Typically, yes. The songs start with guitar riffs and everything builds from there. Sometimes there will be some rudimentary vocal melodies to accompany a guitar part from the beginning but a lot of the time that all comes at the end. It can be challenging to not end up with too much going on or with competing melodies on guitar and vocals, but Kailey does a really great job of writing hooks that can really stand out.
HMS: The cover art for the EP has cigarette butts and two silver lighters. How did you decide on that image and what does it mean to you?
Malcolm: The idea from the art came as a sort of juxtaposition to our previous two releases. Our first couple of singles that came out right before the pandemic had really dense glitter on the cover–very bright and clean looking. That aesthetic matched what we were going for at the time, too. A less distorted, less heavy sound. Over the course of the pandemic, when we weren’t able to play shows or record anything, that sound started to change and we started leaning more on some of our more Punk influences. We really came into our own as a band and as a result the songs got louder and dirtier, so we figured the art had to as well. The cigarette butts were keeping in theme with our first music video, and also allowed us to recreate the same art style from the first singles with a different medium.
HMS: Do you think your region and the bands that have come from your region have influenced you musically, or these days is it more about what you find out there to listen to?
Malcolm: There’s definitely a long legacy of influential Rock bands from the pacific northwest, and we are all of the age that bands like Nirvana were still a big deal when we were growing up and being exposed to music, but the internet and streaming services have really changed the way people get exposed to new things.
We all have a seemingly endless amount of music available to us at a moment’s notice and that has done away with the regional sounds that cropped up in music scenes through the 70s, 80s and 90s. All that being said, it’s also true that sometimes what influences you most are the smaller bands that you are playing with and seeing regularly, and I think right now there are a lot of great bands in and around Seattle that are doing similar things to us. Supercrush, TV Star, Dead Family Dog, etc.
HMS: I see there’s a vinyl pre-order for a single-sided 12 inch. How do you feel about vinyl, personally? Is it something you all are focused on, or it is more about what fans are wanting at the moment?
Malcolm: It’s interesting because on the one hand, the advent of streaming is presumably making physical media less and less relevant every day, but on the other hand it’s very easy to still get trapped in this mindset that a release isn’t “real” unless it has a physical component, be it vinyl, CD, cassette, whatever. A lot of people collect vinyl, and as far as physical media in the niche that we occupy, it probably sells better than CDs or other alternatives. There is also something really great about having a large template to create artwork to accompany the songs, and you don’t really get that with streaming.
HMS: On the song “Loosey”, we come up against dissatisfaction, a sense that something is “missing” but the world doesn’t seem to care. But the music is very compensating, in a way, giving us a feeling instead, like the twin guitar solo! Why do you think those things go well together in this song?
Malcolm: “Loosey” is one of those songs that sounds upbeat or even happy at first, but has lyrics that tell a different story. Beyond the over-the-top guitar solos and the chorus hooks, it’s really a song about feeling like nothing matters, which is something that a lot of people can relate too. Ultimately, as a band, our goal is to make people feel something, to make people either turn it up or turn it off. We want to have a sound that is loud and in-your-face and hard to ignore, and having lyrics that connect with people is a big part of that. The contrast between the sound and the words ends up working because that’s what life feels like a lot of the time, this crazy push and pull between feeling like shit and feeling unstoppable.